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A Review Of Day 8 Testimony In Derek Chauvin's Trial In Minneapolis


A question now before the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial is this - what did George Floyd actually say in a video of his arrest? Both the prosecution and the defense heard something different relating to whether Floyd had drugs in his body when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck. A warning - we're going to hear some of the video of George Floyd's arrest in this conversation. NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Minneapolis. Cheryl, first off, can you just explain this discrepancy about what George Floyd said on the video that recorded his arrest and ultimately his death?

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Yeah. Well, that is really the big issue, and it depends on what you hear in just this really tiny bit of audio. And it's - it was quite a moment. Defense attorney Eric Nelson played this clip of video where we see Floyd struggling, Derek Chauvin over him. And it seemed Floyd may have said something about drugs. And Nelson asked Special Agent James Reyerson when he testified what he could make out. Reyerson is with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and he led the investigation into Floyd's death. So take a listen to the tape.


GEORGE FLOYD: I (unintelligible).

ERIC NELSON: Did you hear that?


NELSON: Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said, I ate too many drugs?

REYERSON: Yes, it did.

MARTIN: Wow. I mean, that was hard for me to discern.

CORLEY: Yeah, really, and exactly what the prosecutor said. So they pulled a longer version of the video and prosecutor Matthew Frank asked Reyerson to take another listen.


MATTHEW FRANK: Having heard it in context, you're able to tell what Mr. Floyd is saying there.

REYERSON: Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, I ain't do no drugs.

MARTIN: So they're trying to figure out if George Floyd said that he ate too many drugs or he hadn't done any. I mean, the defense is really trying to use this as the focus - right? - suggesting drug use as a factor in Floyd's death. Prosecutors say it's all about inappropriate use of force. They actually hired a law enforcement consultant, I understand, who is a use of force expert. Who is he, and what did he have to say in the trial?

CORLEY: Well, he is LAPD Sergeant Jody Stiger. And as you mentioned, he is a use of force expert. And like many Minneapolis police officers, including the chief, he said Derek Chauvin used excessive force during the arrest of George Floyd and he found Chauvin's weight was on Floyd from the moment he was put on the ground until paramedics arrived. And prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Stiger for more of a description.


STEVE SCHLEICHER: Was it objectively reasonable or not objectively reasonable?

JODY STIGER: It was not objectively reasonable.

SCHLEICHER: And is that then the basis for saying it was excessive?

STIGER: Correct.

MARTIN: So, Cheryl, how did the defense respond to that?

CORLEY: Well, Eric Nelson said there are a number of instances where Chauvin showed restraint. He said, for instance, Chauvin didn't use a Taser against Floyd when he saw him struggling with the officers who were trying to get him into the squad car. And Nelson said sometimes the use of force, the force that an officer may have to use, just isn't attractive.


NELSON: And sometimes it may be so - it may be caught on video, right. And it looks bad, right?


NELSON: But it's still lawful.

STIGER: Yes, based on that department's policies or based on that state's law.

CORLEY: And we don't have time to really let you hear what Schleicher said, but he said that, you know, if it doesn't really look objectively reasonable, then it's just awful.

MARTIN: NPR's Cheryl Corley, thank you so much.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley
Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.